Private schools call for new gun legislation

Friends School
Two DeKalb County private school leaders joined 45 others across Georgia in signing a letter asking lawmakers to enact legislation to prevent future school shootings.

Paul Bianchi of The Paideia School and Waman French of The Friends School of Atlanta added their signatures to the letter, which appeared in the March 9 issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The letter, which joins a wave of national pressure on legislators following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., outlines ways independent school leaders plan to prevent similar violence from happening in their own schools.

“We prepare and plan; we consider arming security guards and outfit our campuses with panic buttons, cameras and automated locks; we invest in mental wellness programming and employ the very best school counselors; our youngest students crouch in closets and behind closed doors as we conduct active-shooter drills; our teachers attend training sessions in which we ask them to risk their lives for the sake of their students,” the letter reads.

The letter also explains the limits of preparation the schools face.

“Despite our best efforts, we recognize that we do not have the power to prevent individuals bent on violence from acquiring the weapons used in recent school shootings,” it reads. “We are writing because you have that power.”

While the letter does not outline specific reforms, it concludes with a call to action for lawmakers.

“On behalf of our students, parents, faculty and staff, we plan to continue to do our best to protect our school communities and we challenge you to do the same,” it reads. “Now is the time for action.”

According to French, the idea for the letter came from Pace Academy Head of School Fred Assaf who collected the 47 signatures from school leaders.

French told The Champion he was “excited and proud” to be a part of the effort to persuade legislators to enact “common-sense gun legislation.”

“The letter speaks to all the ways schools are attempting to provide safe environments for students,” French said. “The obvious missing piece is legislation that could prevent someone from walking into a school and shooting.”

The Friends School, a private Quaker school located on Columbia Drive in Decatur, hosts students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.

According to French, students from The Friends School plan to take part in the national school walkout March 14. French said he has personally contacted state legislators about potentially making changes to gun laws in Georgia.

The Champion also asked for comment from Bianchi but did not receive a response by press time.

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